Tfronky’s List of Top Eleven Underrated Bands

Tfronky likes to share good musicWell, at least in my humble (and correct) opinion they are, and it is eleven because it hit me once I had the post done that I forgot the band at number ten on this list. The great thing about lists is just how biased and subjective they are. I am sure there will be artists on this list that will leave you scratching your head. Good, that’s the point. All I ask is that if you took the time to read this post then take the time to click each artist link, watch the accompanying video and check out the band or solo artist I listed. Who knows, maybe some of you will discover something new. Others will just continue to think that Tfronky is full of ___. That is the beautiful thing about apathy.

Without further adieu and in alphabetical order:

  1. Catherine Wheel – Bobby Lerma from The Father Figures is responsible for six of the bands on this list. He was on me for months after this band’s second album Chrome was released to check these guys out. I have to admit I was very late to the party on this one and blew it. I caught on in time to see Catherine Wheel play at Gibsons during the Happy Days tour, a good album but not the mind-blowing creations that the debut album Ferment and Chrome were. These guys took the elements of shoegaze, added in their own style of rock and Britpop to deliver two monster albums that are still in regular rotation for me sixteen years later.
  2. Hey Mercedes – Formed out of the ashes of Braid in 1999, this Milwaukee, WI/Chicago, IL band created two full-length albums of incredibly intense, yet melodic indie rock. Ignore the “experts” that labeled these guys as an “emo” band for Hey Mercedes was too cool to ever suffer from that moniker. Bob Nanna has one of the most unique voices in rock and roll, but the best characteristic of this band was just how tight they were as a unit. The band could stop on a dime and resume a song just as quickly with none of the members getting off track. The Cajun House and Jar shows I saw were excellent. I guess Braid has a new EP out, I need to listen to that.
  3. Juno – Another recommendation from The Bob, this one immediately hooked me hard the day he brought the band’s second album A Future Lived in Past Tense to my work and had me play “Killing it in a Quiet Way”. Juno was an incredible five-piece from Seattle with a host of guest bassists (including Nate Mendel from Foo Fighters/Sunny Day Real Estate) that created some of the most awe-inspiring post-punk and indie rock the music world ever heard. This band was way ahead of its time and far too unique and intelligent of a band for most people to ever “get it”. Too bad because these guys absolutely shredded without ever having to create an overload of volume and speed.
  4. Kitchens of Distinction – My sister gave me a shirt years ago upon returning from a trip to California when she saw this band by the name of Kitchens of Distinction. She said they were awesome, so I went out the next day, took a chance and bought the band’s latest album at that time Strange Free World. “Holy ____” was all I could say when I heard the wall of sound this trio created, a truly gorgeous, lush landscape of guitars that shimmered. To me this was how shoegaze was supposed to sound. I had an opportunity to see the band open for Suzanne Vega at Celebrity Theatre and they sounded just as good and crystal clear live as they did on disc.
  5. Mobius Band – Sadly this band is no more. I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing this trio grace the WOXY.com Stage at the Monolith Festival in 2007, then saw them play a killer opening set at the Larimer Lounge in Denver, CO just eight months later. Three of the nicest guys I have ever met, I will always owe drummer Noam for what he did for me at the Larimer Lounge show. I wrote a blog post for a company I was working for at the time about that show. These guys combined indie rock, electronica and lots of energy into a great package. The Mobius Band website lists the three projects the guys are involved with now. You really should get the Heaven and The Loving Sounds of Static albums. Now.
  6. Nada Surf – Back in 1996 Nada Surf released their first album High/Low which contained the alternative/MTV hit “Popular”. The song was catchy but did not inspire me to go out and buy the album. Well, unfortunately for this great band that is the opposite of most people, because when they released their sophomore album The Proximity Effect their label at the time Elektra dropped them and refused to release the album in the United States. Why? There was not a “hit song” like “Popular” on the album. Fast forward four years and Nada Surf released Let Go, a wonderful album of delicious indie pop music. The output from this band got even better on 2005’s The Weight is a Gift, one of the best pop records laid down in the past twenty years or so. IMHO of course. Amazing that this band is only a trio with the power, precision and beauty they possess.
  7. Snowden – At the 2008 Monolith Festival at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO I was able to catch about three or four songs from Snowden out of Atlanta, GA. That is the only problem with festivals, there are multiple stages with performers going on at all times. Well, I saw enough to inspire me to buy their 2006 release on Jade Tree Records Anti-Anti. Although it was two years old by that point the album became one of my favorite albums for 2008 and still is in heavy rotation on the iPod. Singer/guitarist/songwriter Jordan Jeffares created an album of punishing indie rock that is chock full of hooks galore. My understanding is the band has a new album coming out next year. For now, get Anti-Anti!
  8. Squeeze – Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford were an incredible song-writing duo and created a slew of outstanding singles in the late seventies and early eighties. They charted well in the U.K. but never achieved that kind of success in the United States. It figures, we are always behind the ball it seems when it comes to outstanding music. Squeeze to me is what “pop music” should sound like. According to The Greek if you play Singles: 45’s and Under from Squeeze you are guaranteed to score in the bedroom.
  9. Swervedriver – First of all, you must click the band link I gave you, one of the best music links I have ever visited with opportunities to download tons of live material from this band! Swervedriver is a U.K. band that came to us by way of Oxford and was part of the original shoegaze and Creation Records scenes that included other bands such as My Bloody Valentine, House of Love and Ride. It is this writer’s opinion that Swervedriver was the best of the Creation bands, merely using shoegaze as a part of the mind-blowing rock and roll they were capable of creating. Their first two albums Raise and Mezcal Head were two beautiful pieces of work that were tranquil and heavy at the same time. What a band and what a show they put on when I saw them touring in support of their last album 99th Dream at The Jar. They would EASILY be the best band on the list if it was not for the last band listed …
  10. Talk Talk – I loved MTV back when the channel actually played videos, but the problem was it was easy to latch on to one or two singles from a band and ignore the rest of their work. That was the case with Talk Talk when they released their 1982 debut The Party’s Over. The single from that album “Talk Talk” was a fun, dance-oriented new wave tune. Two years later the band released It’s My Life, a big international hit with the title track from that album even making the U.S. Billboard Top 40. Then, they disappeared, or at least that is what I and too many others probably thought. Instead Talk Talk revamped their sound and eliminated the new wave from their sound, creating a style of experimental post-rock that became highly influential in the Britpop scene of the nineties and beyond. Thanks to The Bob for pushing this period of Talk Talk on me!
  11. Elbow – I know what all of you are thinking; “How in the hell could you put your favorite band on this list?” Simple statistics my friends. First, the greatest band in the world played an early evening set in the Gobi Stage at Coachella this year instead of a headlining spot on the Main Stage where they belong. Never mind a bigger festival like Glastonbury was smart enough to put them on the Pyramid Stage this year. Music journalist Stuart Maconie stated that the Glastonbury performance by Elbow was a “career defining” show. Second, build a rocket boys! is their highest charting album in the U.K., peaking at #2. That album “peaked” at #151 in the U.S. Third, The Seldom Seen Kid won the 2008 Mercury Prize in the U.K. yet peaked at #109 in the U.S. This is a travesty my friends, particularly when you consider the utter trash that dominates the airwaves in this country. Yes, this is my opinion. I just consider it to be a mockery of true art when an amazing band like this has not achieved worldwide U2/Coldplay status when other artists that do not even 100% create their own music sell out arenas. Next month when I go to see Elbow in Los Angeles they are playing the Greek Theatre, a venue that holds just over 5000 fans. Tragic. If you want to know just how much I love this band, read on. And on.

Let the comments begin. Cheers!
Frank

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7 comments

  1. Allyn · September 6, 2011

    “Next month when I go to see Elbow in Los Angeles they are playing the Greek Theatre, a venue that holds just over 5000 fans.”

    I’m seeing them in two weeks in DC at an SRO venue that holds, I think, 1,200. (According to several websites, I’m bang on.)

    Elbow does well in intimate settings. I’ve heard their St. Paul’s Cathedral gig, and it doesn’t get more intimate than that. I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

  2. tfronky · September 6, 2011

    I saw Elbow in May 2008 at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver, another intimate venue. I agree with you completely that they do extremely well in small settings. I just hate to see how little fanfare they get on this side of the Atlantic.

  3. Allyn · September 6, 2011

    That’s a question that gets kicked around on the Elbow Room Only forum every few months — what can Elbow do to “crack” the American market? There was an article in the Guardian around the time of barb!‘s release that danced around asking the same question outright.

    I can think of ways the band could increase its exposure on this side of the pond, but the truth is, I don’t think the band cares that much if they crack the American market or not. (If they want to really make a splash, they need more play on television and movie soundtracks. Considering how much Stephenie Meyer loves Elbow, you’d think they’d have contributed a song to the Twilight movies.) build a rocket boys!, much as I love it, seems to me to be almost consciously designed as an anti-American-breakthrough album; there’s nothing from the album that I can picture getting radio play. (By way of comparison, I heard both “Bones of You” and “Grounds for Divorce” on the radio.) And touring in small venues in the US for a week doesn’t do a lot to bring them exposure. (That said, I sent NPR the suggestion that they webcast one of Elbow’s concerts on the upcoming swing; they did that recently with Bon Iver in the same venue where I’ll be seeing Elbow later this month. I have no idea if NPR is looking into it; All Songs Considered has never replied to my e-mail.)

    By the way, if you’re interested in the St. Paul’s Cathedral gig, drop me an e-mail. (If it’s not in the e-mail WordPress sends you because I’ve left a comment, just follow my name back to my website and click the “Contact” link you see there.)

  4. Seth Kent · September 8, 2011

    Good list. Should have had The Villagers.

  5. tfronky · September 8, 2011

    Villagers, very good band. They opened for Elbow in the UK this year.

  6. Pingback: Tfronky’s October road trip – Hello Los Angeles and more important, Hello Elbow! | The Musings of Frank Gallardo
  7. Pingback: The Tfronky Pick of the Week – Snowden | The Musings of Frank Gallardo

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